East Sussex County Council is to cut the number of times grass verges are cut in Uckfield – and across the county – to save money.
Details of the reduction in service have been given to Uckfield Town Council which has declined the opportunity of stepping in to ensure more grass cutting is done during the season.
Councillors wish residents to understand that if grass cutting falls below their expectations, complaints should go to the county council, which is the authority responsible for the upkeep of grass verges.
County council cutback
It is the second time in recent weeks that town councillors have refused to “plug the gap” when the county council has refused to do highways works.
The cuts being made by East Sussex Council will, the authority recognises, be disappointing but it has to “provide a number of services within very challenging financial constraints, whilst at the same time managing demand for important services, including schools and social care”.
Town councillors were told the county council’s proposal was to reduce the number of urban verge cuts from the current six per season (they are currently required to do a minimum of five), to two per season from April 1.
The report went on to say that in reducing the urban grass cutting from six to two cuts a season, they will be managing urban grass for safety reasons only.
Rural grass cutting will remain as two one-metre swathe, plus visibility splay, cuts per season.
Some town councillors wanted to pick up the slack to ensure approaches to the town looked smart and tidy.
Cllr Paul Sparks, Liberal Democrat, Uckfield North, said: “I think this is a fact of life now, unfortunately that the higher authorities, the county council and Wealden District Council, are strapped for cash and they are going to spend their money on what they have to spend on.
“The county council has got some huge issues to deal with, social care, children’s services and education.
“It comes to the point: do we care about our town enough that we want it to look smart, clean, tidy, pride to live in our town. To have our verges cut on a regular basis is one way we can achieve that.”
Cllr Sparks said this could be achieved for another £6,000 a year.
No golden money pit
The alternative view was put by Cllr Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Uckfield Central, who said the town council did not have a “golden money pit”.
“We also have to be very careful,” she said.
“I really think that reserves [money in the bank for a rainy day] should be for something unforeseen.
“I am really sorry, but I personally think the town council is already picking up enough of what Wealden or East Sussex don’t or won’t do.
Draw a line
“We have to draw a line somewhere.”
She criticised the timing of the announcement – after towns and parishes had set their budgets.
Cllr Ward said the county council knew when budgets were set “roughly the same as when they do”.
She added: “We haven’t got a bottomless pit.”
County council allowances
Cllr Mick Dean Trust Independent, New Town, said: “They can find money when they want to find money.
“They can find money when they want to up up their wages,” he said, referring to last year’s decision by the county council to increase members’ allowances.
Town councillors agreed to do nothing this year over grass cutting.
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